Something I’ve been saying for a while is that the continued fracturing of DRM into different solutions makes Epub essentially useless as an open format. Apple, of course, has made this even worse with its new iBookstore.
Now, an excellent article in Amazon Kindle Review looks at the reality of the situation from the consumer, not the techie or the ideologue, standpoint. Read the whole article, please.
There are two ways to look at the eReaders, eBooks, and formats situation –
1. Kindle has its own proprietary format, Apple and B&N add on their own custom DRM to ePub, Sony uses DRMed ePub that any Adobe DRM supporting device can access, libraries use DRMed ePub that also any Adobe DRM supporting device can access. It’s a royal mess.
2. The Kindle platform works across the PC, the Mac, iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, the Kindle (obviously), and there are rumors it will work on Linux and with new Tablets. Without much ado the kindle format has come close to being a universal format.
The latter is closer to solving the formats problem than the former – What’s the point of ePub if every company adds its own DRM on top of it and makes it unable to work on other ePub devices?
The first thing to do is separate ideology from practicality –
1. Ideology says we need an open format that has no restrictions and works across all devices.
2. Practicality says we need a format that works across all devices.
Ideology might never win out because Publishers and Established Authors are reluctant to leave themselves at the mercy of the anonymous crowds. Look at the much-promised openness of ePub – It doesn’t exist. B&N, Apple, Sony, and libraries are all using DRM so it’s hardly open. Plus Apple and B&N are using custom DRM (in the case of B&N a special password) that renders their ebooks unusable on each other’s and Sony’s devices. …
People are more concerned about easy and universal access to their books People don’t care whether it’s one leading company that dominates ebooks or whether it’s a group of companies that have banded around an ‘open’ format. … Format is an unknown to users – they only think in terms of books, reading, and reading devices.
They don’t really care about whether it is a .doc or a .pdf or a .azw at the end of the files. Perhaps they wouldn’t even want to know about these extensions and formats – It’s just text after all.